Now seemed the perfect time to update this post about day trips from Taipei. I moved to Taipei in mid-2019, as many of you may know, and as coronavirus ravages the world (but not Taiwan, for the most part), I’ve had to get my travel fix within the confines of the island—and often within an hour or two of Taipei.
I’ve taken the same approach here as I did when I refreshed my recommendations for things to do in Taipei itself. The idea is to streamline, to simplify and to make everything more actionable, so that you can easily follow in my footsteps.
Well, once the storm of the Wuhan coronavirus has passed, anyway. You can’t take a day trip from Taipei if you’re banned from entering Taiwan!
How Many Days Should You Spend in Taipei?
Within my main Taipei itinerary post, I discuss the topic of how many days in Taipei you should spend (although, perhaps frustratingly, I find it difficult to come to a single conclusion). In general, I’d say the majority of travelers should try to spend 3-5 days in Taipei. Those who plan to explore Taiwan more broadly might be fine staying on the lower end, while those who won’t travel outside of Taipei should try to spend four or five days in Taipei.
A big reason you should maximize your time in Taiwan’s capital is that this allows you more space for day trips from Taipei. You have to figure you’ll spend at least a full day on the tourist trail—and at least a full day eating. Although you could combine a couple of the excursions I’m about to mention into a single day (Keelung and Jiufen, most notably), it’s really best to have a dedicated 24-hour period for each Taipei day trip.
My Favorite Taipei Day Trips
The harbor city of Keelung is probably the Taipei day trip I take most often now that I live here. Sometimes, I’m simply on my way to dinner at iconic Miaokou Night Market, while more adventurous excursions take me to the the panoramic viewpoint (and massive Guanyin statue) at Zhongzheng Park or to colorful Zhengbin Fishing Port, which is featured in the main image of this post. A popular day-trip-within-a-day-trip from Keelung is to Yehliu Geopark, home to the famous (but smaller than you might expect) Queen’s Head rock formation. Regular trains and buses to Keelung leave from Taipei Main Station and the attached Taipei Bus Station, respectively.
Jiufen is usually considered to be among the best day trips from Taipei, although most travelers are simply bound for Jiufen Old Street. Many places other places in the Jiufen area are worth visiting, however. Teapot Mountain (Chahushan) is an invigorating but accessible hike, which offers great views on a clear day. You can also admire waterfalls like Shifen (the most-visited one in Taiwan) and the so-called Golden Waterfall pictured above. To reach Jiufen, take a direct bus from Zhongxiao Fuxing MRT Station, or take a train from Taipei Main Station to Ruifang, where frequent local buses continue to the Old Street and beyond.
Yangmingshan National Park
Many day trips out of Taipei will take you either to the massive volcano that sits north of the city (Yangmingshan) or to places in its periphery, be it the hot springs of Beitou (which are heated by Mt. Yangming’s volcanic vents) or Tamsui, whose Old Street and Fisherman’s Wharf sit in its shadow, where the Tamsui River meets the sea. However, Yangmingshan National Park is most famous for hiking—my favorite trail leads to Qi Xing Shan, or Seven Stars Mountain. On a clear day (which is admittedly somewhat rare), you can enjoy an incredible view of Taipei. To reach the trailhead, you can take bus R5 from Jiantan MRT Station to the Yangmingshan Bus Center, where you can transfer to a local bus bound for Xiaoyoukeng.
The first of my favorite day trips from Taipei to take you south of the city, Wulai is notable for a couple of reasons. First, for the natural hot springs that bubble up along the shores of the Nanshi River that flows through the town. Secondly, for the aboriginal heritage and by extension, the population of aborigines that at least ostensibly inhabits the town. Explore the Atayal Museum for an hour or two, or simply sit down at a local restaurant and enjoy Wulai sausages or rice served inside a bamboo tube. To get here, ride bus 849 from Xindian MRT Station, which is the terminal station of the Green Line.
In addition to easy and relatively short day trips, Taipei also makes a great base for longer day excursions and even weekend trips around Taiwan. I’ll name some of those later, but for now I’ll tell you about one of my favorites: Quanhua Temple, located within the Shitoushan Scenic Area in rural Miaoli County. Although you can technically reach here via Bus 5700, which departs Hsinchu HSR Station a few times per day, it’s best to rent your own car. On my latest trip to this stunning Taiwanese temple, I stopped here on my way from Sun Moon Lake (which I’d visited after a day in Taichung) back to Taipei.
What to Do in Taipei (Besides Get Out of Town)
It’s unavoidable that you’re going to want to take a day trip out of Taipei, in spite of how awesome Taiwan’s capital is. As far as what to do in the city besides get out—where shall I begin? Taipei doesn’t have much of a tourist trail, but if it did it would run eastward along Xinyi Road, from Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, past the dim sum eateries and bubble tea shops of Yongkang Street, and through lush Da’an Park to Taipei 101 and Xiangshan Mountain.
It might also head westward from CKS, past the Ximending pedestrian street to Longshan Temple, then up the Tamsui River to Dadaocheng Wharf to the historical Dihua Street area and to Shilin Night Martket. Once you’ve tackled these destinations (and maybe some others—my opinion on what constitutes a Taipei must-see frequently changes), you can decide which are the best Taipei day trips for your own itinerary.
Other Amazing Day Trip Destinations in Taiwan
- Taroko Gorge National Park (from Hualien)
- East Coast Scenic Route (from Hualien or Taitung)
- Kenting National Park (from Kaohsiung)
- Fo Guang Shan Monastery (from Kaohsiung)
- Tea Fields of Shizuo and Alishan National Scenic Area (from Chiayi)
- Sun Moon Lake (from Taichung)
The Bottom Line
You came here to learn about day trips from Taipei, but I hope I’ve given you something more. I’ve spent the past year living in Taiwan, after all, and have come to know—and to understand—the country on a much deeper level. Whether that inspires you creating a Taiwan trip that is more comprehensive or meaningful than it otherwise might have been, or simply convinces you to spend longer here than you were planning, I’ll consider my work done if you leave Taiwan wanting to come back. Certainly, Taipei itself is worthy of multiple visits, each of which will necessarily include many excursions outside the city limits.